Motivated Hechavarria showing off adjustments
Shortstop changes approach after tough 2013; hot start puts him atop lineup
MIAMI -- The sample size may be small, but Adeiny Hechavarria's motivation level right now is at a personal high.
Quite frankly, the Marlins' shortstop was not happy with the numbers he posted in 2013. As a rookie, in his first full season with Miami, Hechavarria batted .227 with a .267 on-base percentage.
Defensively, he is extremely talented and athletic, but his approach at the plate lacked discipline. Like the rest of the team, Hechavarria struggled. According to Baseball Reference, his WAR was a negative 1.6.
Working with hitting coach Frank Menechino, Hechavarria has focused on a middle-of-the-field approach. The shortstop has adjusted his hand placement a little farther away from his body, and he has shortened his swing.
The results are evident, as Hechavarria has 11 hits through five games entering Saturday, and he's coming off a career-high four-hit performance in Miami's 8-2 win over San Diego on Friday night.
"I was just disappointed in my performance last year," Hechavarria said. "That was a driving force in me improving myself this year. I made a couple of changes. I'm separating my hands from my body a little bit more. That's helped me so far."
Obtained from Toronto as part of the blockbuster trade following the 2012 season, Hechavarria is still a developing player. He will turn 25 on April 15.
"When I'm tight and I'm anxious, that's when I open my swing up," the Cuban-born shortstop said. "I've been keeping myself composed. That's when I'm driving the ball up the middle or the opposite way."
Marlins manager Mike Redmond feels the slick-fielding shortstop has the chance to be a regular top-of-the-lineup hitter. Hechavarria batted leadoff on Friday night because San Diego started lefty Eric Stults. He was back atop the lineup Saturday against righty Andrew Cashner.
"He's had some amazing at-bats," Redmond said. "He had a nice spring. You can kind of see him get more and more comfortable with his at-bats. He's worked hard with his plate discipline and swinging at strikes. I said it last year: I envision this guy at the top of the order, whether it is first or second."
The Marlins are counting on the top of the order to get on base for Giancarlo Stanton and the rest of the heart of the lineup.
"Hech brings a lot to the table, especially in that leadoff spot," Redmond said. "He can run. It's all about getting on base. If we get on base for Giancarlo and the middle of that order, we have a chance to score some runs."